URBANA — The Urbana High School student council is bringing back a half-century tradition this holiday season by resuming its sit-down Thanksgiving meal for the community.
It’s been since 2019 that a sit-down meal was served by the students on the holiday — which was the year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
For the past two years, students have handed out grab-and-go sacks for the holiday, with the meal last Thanksgiving being grab-and-go largely due to cost, according to Yvonne Alvarez, a Spanish teacher at the high school and sponsor of the student council.
“It cost a lot more to be able to have a sit-down, and have all the sides, drinks, desserts, so we had to minimize what we were able to offer and how many we were able to serve,” she said.
Many people who came to the grab-and-go last year said how much they’d love for the meal to be a sit-down dinner again, she said.
For those without extended family in the area, Alvarez said, “they’re able to come and have conversation with new friends.”
Another nice part of a sit-down meal is that people who come get waited on, she said.
“They don’t go up to the serving line to ask for their meals. It’s like a restaurant and having a waiter come to take your order,” Alvarez said.
While the free Thanksgiving dinner is definitely on, from 4-6 p.m. Nov. 23 at the high school, what remains to be determined is how many people can be served, she said.
Traditionally, the meal is planned for 300 people, but last year, it was limited to 100, Alvarez said.
She hopes this year’s dinner can serve 300 again, but given the current cost of food, it may have to be cut to 150-200 depending on donations raised.
One challenge is the expense of restaurant food and finding a vendor who can supply pre-made, reheatable meals at an affordable price, Alvarez said.
It will cost more than $3,000 to serve 300 people, and so far only about half of that money has been raised through a few donations, she said.
More donations are needed.
The meal will be open, as always, to anyone, with no reservations required, on a first-come, first served basis.
Community volunteers are also needed to help, Alvarez said.
Those interested in helping out can call 708-580-6396 and leave a message, she said.